It started with my Grandfather
People often ask me when I realized I wanted to become a doctor, specifically a plastic surgeon. Coming from a medical family, and having a father who was a noted plastic surgeon, I was always drawn to the medical field. It started with my grandfather, Dr. Harry Fleming. He was a small town country doctor in Humboldt, Saskatchewan. He worked long hours, made house calls and often got paid with a baskets of vegetables or a cake or a pie. My father Dr. Joseph Fleming, followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a plastic surgeon and heading up the Texas Institute of Plastic Surgery. My mother worked at his side for many years as his nurse. As you can imagine, plastic surgery was a common topic of conversation in our house as I grew up. It seemed inevitable that my brother and I would also choose to go to medical school and then go on to become surgeons like our father.
It’s funny how things go full circle. My first year working as a plastic surgeon I had an older gentleman as a patient. He told me that as a young boy he had had his tonsils removed by a Dr. Fleming in Humboldt, Saskatchewan. That was my grandfather.
I had another patient my first year in practice who sustained a critical injury but had no insurance or money to pay me for my services. Of course, I performed his surgery and never billed him. Every year, on the anniversary of his accident, this patient from long ago, brings me a cake or a pie as a gesture of thanks. Somehow it always makes me think of my grandfather all those years ago, working as a country doctor and getting paid with a basket of vegetables, or a cake, or a pie, and the family legacy that he began.